Roger Bacon was a 13th century philosopher and friar who loved to study nature through the use of empirical methods. He’s often included in a brief list of observers who used the modern scientific method for observations and was often considered a radical by religious authorities of his time because he would question everything. Instead of basing thoughts and theories based solely on oral traditions or on political views, Bacon took observations down and collected facts based on mathematics he observed.
He was jailed for alchemy, but his scientific experiments were critical to some of today’s commonly used items, including the glasses you may be wearing right now to read this! Here is a look at some of the inventions that are attributed to Roger Bacon.
Although modern gunpowder isn’t attributed to Roger Bacon, this Franciscan friar is considered the first European individual to describe the process of creating it. Based on his writings, it is believed that Bacon saw presentations of Chinese firecrackers and then extrapolated from his observations about how the firecrackers worked. There are some claims that Bacon even included a coded message within his writings of the proper ratio for gunpowder, but the deciphered ratio does not actually have the power to ignite.
The Modern Calendar
Even though he never saw the fruition of his work, Bacon believed that the Julian calendar that was being used was incorrect. Although it was essentially correct in most areas, there were inaccuracies that would lead to having extra days develop over the centuries. Although a difference of nine days seemed inconsequential, Bacon was a religious man and this meant the Christian church was celebrating the holidays like Easter and Christmas on incorrect dates. He calculated a reduction of time which eventually led to the Gregorian calendar a century later that subtracted 9 days from the calendar.
One of Bacon’s life fascinations was the study of optics. Drawing on the works of Islamic researchers, he researched the entire field, from how the brain interpreted light and distance to how this could be corrected or enhanced through the use of lenses and mirrors. Although he never created an actual optic lens, it was his research that led to the creation of modern corrective lenses about three centuries later in Europe.
One of the issues that Roger Bacon saw going on during his day was that the church was moving away from the intent of the Bible and was using it to fulfill their own purpose. He urged those who studied the Bible to go back to its original languages and study the intent of the source so that the real message from the words could be consistently communicated to the people. This was important because at the time, the average person didn’t have a personal copy of the Bible to study on their own. Each Bible was handwritten and available only to the local religious authority who would then teach the local population.